Here’s What I Included In A Document To Support New ELL Teachers In Our School

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Several of my talented colleagues will be joining me in teaching ELL Newcomer and Intermediate ELL students next school year.

We’ll be doing some professional development over the summer, and had a brief lunch meeting this past week.

I also prepared a three-and-a-half page document with some information for them. I don’t think it would be useful to share the entire piece here, but I did think sharing at least the “headings” and a few other points I included might be interested to readers.

It begins with this caveat:

Please note that anything could change, and that I have absolutely no role in any decision-making process.

As anyone who teaches knows, lots of things can happen over the summer. And, though my judgment is valued by many at our school, I deliberately stay out of any official decision-making capacity. Life is easier that way 🙂

This first “heading” in the document is our ELD (English Language Development) Schedule. We’ll be offering two Social Sciences classes (I’ll be teaching one); four English classes at various English-proficiency and grade levels (I’ll be teaching Newcomers); two science classes; two Math classes, and two classes to provide additional support.

Next, I talk about the schedule of our Bilingual Aide, and I share a short post I wrote on Do’s & Don’ts Of Working With An Aide In An ELL Classroom.

Then, I discuss Peer Tutors (see Are Schools Overlooking An Obvious Strategy They Can Implement Immediately To Accelerate Learning? Peer Tutors! ; The Best Resources To Help Prepare Tutors & Volunteers In ELL Classes – And, Boy, Do I Need Suggestions! and Here’s A New Writing “Twist” I Plan To Add To Peer Tutors’ Responsibilities Next Year When Working With ELLs).

That’s followed by describing ELD Crafts & Other Materials. Our school spends a generous amount on any classroom supplies ELD teachers would like to use in their classrooms, ranging from construction paper to class sets of mini-whiteboards and headphones.

ELD Textbooks is next on the list. We use National Geographic’s EDGE series in ELL English classes, but it has lots of gaps (though I like their grammar workbooks). Our school generally purchases whatever supplemental materials teachers want in any ELL classes. For example, I use America’s Story in my ELL US History classes. In English classes, we use True Storiesand Grammar Step By Step With Pictures.

Next comes Professional Developmentwhich will be paid over the summer, completely voluntary, and totally focused on what teachers want to have covered.

Then, I discuss the ELD Support Centerwhich is an adjoining classroom next to mine and which has tons of high-interest books that teachers can bring their classes down to check-out, or where the aide could bring a few students to work with in a more quiet place.

I then have a section titled What I Might Teach Or Use If I Was Teaching Your Classes, with this intro:

Here are some ideas that you should feel free to completely ignore if you don’t find them useful. You have complete autonomy about what you teach in your classes.

A fair amount of what I write in that section is specific to our school, but here are some basic points I make:

  • I recommend that all teachers use mini-whiteboards for formative assessment activities.
  • I suggest that all English and support teachers use Quill (I’ve written a lot about Quill).
  • I encourage Math and Science teachers to have students develop prior knowledge of their lessons by having Spanish-speakers watch Brainpop videos in Spanish, and all students watch Khan Academy math videos in their home languages.
  • I discuss the value of support teachers working closely with other teachers and learning what lessons they will be having in those helping classes the following week, and then students get some prior knowledge about them. In other words, operating similar to how we have done specific support classes for Long-Term ELLs in the past (see my article Research in Action: Ramping Up Support for Long-Term ELLs)

Next, I discuss Counselor/Student Support. We have a bilingual counselor who has responsiblity for working with our ELL students, and he’s very talented. I also add this passage:

Though I have limited time to provide any extra support, I do have very good relationships with many ELD students, and I am happy to leverage those relationships to be helpful (though I obviously cannot promise. If there are students you would like me to talk with who I have in one of my classes, just let me know about the situation. If I don’t have them in one of my classes, we can arrange a time for you to send the student to me.

Lastly, I end with Some Things To Keep In Mind:

ELD students are just as intelligent as our English proficient students, they just don’t know English yet. Many are multilingual. Studies have shown that ELLs have a greater growth mindset and can be more creative because of their experiences. I also think they tend to be pretty resilient.

Though ELD students can sometimes be annoying (and they would say the same about me – in fact, The Washington Post once headlined one of them saying that exact thing) I have seldom, if ever, had an ELD student be outright defiant or disrespectful towards me.

What do you think I’m missing?

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